SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Shocking violence at a Brazilian championship match is not an indication of what can be expected when the South American country hosts next year’s World Cup, FIFA and Brazilian government officials said on Monday.
Three people were seriously injured when fans fought running battles at the Atletico Paranaense v Vasco da Gama match on Sunday and at least 30 people have been killed in incidents in and around Brazil’s stadiums this year.
Sunday’s game on the final day of the season had to be halted for 70 minutes and players broke down in tears as they watched fans chase each other round the terraces, trading blows with home-made clubs and weapons.
Brazil’s Sports Ministry condemned the violence and called for swift punishment for hooligans.
It also said it would consult with public prosecutors and police chiefs over security at matches. There were no police inside the Arena Joinville where Sunday’s game took place because the home side had opted to use private security guards.
President Dilma Rousseff also condemned the troublemakers and called for a special police station to be set up to deal with football-related incidents.
“I can assure you the lamentable scenes we saw yesterday will not be seen at the World Cup,” said Andrei Rodrigues, the special secretary of major events at the Justice Ministry.
“We can assure you that the stadiums at the World Cup will have at least 200 camera feeds providing real time video and what happened yesterday cannot happen at the World Cup.”
However, some stadiums in use already have CCTV but they are not always used to identify or track down troublemakers. Many of the hooligans belong to organized fan clubs sponsored by the clubs themselves.
The scenes brought back memories of the darkest days of European football in the 1980s and provided further proof that football violence is worsening in Brazil.
“Something has changed, and for the worse,” said Mauricio Murad, a Rio de Janeiro sociologist who wrote the book ‘How To Understand Football Violence’.
“Over the last five or six years violence inside stadiums was under control and it was only bad outside the grounds. What we’ve seen over the last few weekends is a return to violence inside the stadiums.”
Murad slated authorities for neglecting to take action against a problem they can see is getting worse.
Lance, Brazil’s best-selling sports newspaper, said 234 people had been killed in football violence since 1988.
The paper recently described the organized fan groups “gangsters dressed up as football fans” and blamed the authorities for not doing more.
The paper suggested police take simple steps such as making known hooligans report to police stations on match days, a tactic that was successful in England.
“The problem is not the lack of laws but the lack of commitment and rigor shown by authorities in upholding the laws that exist,” the paper said in a front-page editorial in October after fans fought with police at the Sao Paulo derby between Sao Paulo and Corinthians.
On Monday, the paper printed the colorful World Cup logo in black and white. The tournament will be held in South America next year for the first time since 1978.
FIFA was quick to tell fans they should not fear violence at next year’s tournament which will be held in 12 new or totally modernized stadiums across the country.
Unlike Sunday’s game, which was organized by local clubs under the auspices of the Brazilian Football Confederation, World Cup matches are organized by FIFA and will count on heavy security both inside and outside the stadiums.
In addition, only eight percent of tickets for each match go directly to the fans of the teams involved.
“For the 2014 FIFA World Cup a very comprehensive security concept is in place in an integrated operation between private and public security authorities to ensure the safety for fans, players and any other stakeholder involved in the event,” FIFA said in a statement.
“The concept has worked very well during the FIFA Confederations Cup (in Brazil this year) and is built on models used at previous FIFA World Cups.”
The worry for Brazilians is not just what goes on during the World Cup, but also what will happen afterwards.
Authorities say the new stadiums will attract more sophisticated supporters who will watch the match in safer and more comfortable surroundings.
Yet some of the most depressing incidents this year took place in stadiums built for the World Cup.
Fans from Vasco and Corinthians battled each other and police at the Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia in August, just three months after Brazil kicked off the Confederations Cup at the same venue.
“If things change it is not because we have new stadiums but because we have policies in place designed to prevent, repress and educate,” Murad said.
“That’s the only way that things are going to change.”
(Additional reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Ed Osmond)